Argentina and Germany have met twice before in the World Cup final (when the Germany in the title game was West Germany) and I had the privilege of covering both for the Tribune. One was memorable, the other forgettable. Here are my stories on those matches.
World Cup To Argentina
MEXICO CITY — On the field, photographers elbowed for position in a sea of silver confetti that glinted in the sunlight. Above it all, as he has throughout this World Cup, Diego Maradona simply glowed.
Maradona was on the shoulders of teammates and fans who basked in his reflected glory. The man whom Argentines know as the Pivo di Oro, the Golden Boy, had turned out to be as 14-karat as the world championship trophy he was holding aloft.
Only a few minutes before, Maradona had brought the West Germans to their hands and knees. Now he had the whole world of soccer at his feet.
As Argentina won Sunday`s World Cup final 3-2, Maradona had been brilliantly subtle rather than dazzlingly obvious. He scored no goals. He had the ultimate assist on just one goal.
"We did our best to contain Maradona, and to a large extent we were successful," said West German coach Franz Beckenbauer. ``He was not the important element in the Argentine victory.``
It was almost as if he were intent on playing himself down to prove his word was also as good as gold. Maradona had sworn throughout the month-long final phase of this competition that he was merely part of an outstanding team.
It seemed like false modesty when he scored all four Argentina goals in the quarterfinals and semifinals. At the moment of truth, Maradona was right.
"I see myself as the world champion, not as the world`s best player," Maradona said. "We are a complete team."
They proved that before 114,500 spectators at Azteca Stadium by refusing to fall apart after a dogged West German team had wiped out their 2-0 lead late in the game. Latin players, whose game is based on finesse and high style, are criticized for being lighthearted instead of hardhearted.
"Not only are our players inspired, but they also perspired," said Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo.
Only three minutes after the West Germans scored their second goal, Argentina came back with the winner.
Jorge Luis Burruchaga put it in the net. Maradona did everything else.
He first handled the ball at midfield and moved the defense by heading it left to a teammate. When the ball was returned to Maradona, the middle of the field was open.
Maradona, still at midfield, chipped a pass to Burruchaga as he split a gap in the defense. West German goalie Toni Schumacher`s challenge of the shooter was futile.
Three West Germans fell to their hands and knees at midfield as the ball went into the lower left corner with barely six minutes to play. Their gesture was pained counterpoint to the joyous knee-slide that Rudi Voeller had performed after scoring their second goal.
"We were in a state of euphoria," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the West Germans' other scorer, "and we shouldn`t have indulged in it."
The West Germans` happiness was brief. The Argentines have four years to indulge their second triumph in the last three World Cups.
This was certainly a more popular victory than the one the Argentines achieved on their home turf in 1978. That was tainted by the excesses of the generals who ruled Argentina eight years ago.
The military junta thought a world championship might divert attention from their political repression. Published reports have accused them of going so far as to buy a critical game against Peru in return for shipments of food. The Argentine team that won Sunday was congratulated by a democratically elected president, Raoul Alfonsin, who felt his country`s economic crisis was too serious for him to be frittering away time at the final. But Alfonsin did not miss the chance to get in a congratulatory phone call to Maradona.
The West Germans had tried to keep Maradona out of touch, from both the ball and his president. Lothar Mattheus, a midfielder, was moved backwards to become Maradona`s shadow in the first half. That plan changed when the Argentines went ahead 2-0 and Mattheus was needed in the offense.
The West Germans fouled Maradona five times in the first half and once in the second. Two of the fouls came just as he started to get the ball rolling at midfield.
"The West German players are strong, but they had no evil intentions" Maradona said.
"I had no real difficulty in the final. They tried to cover me as best they could, but they did not stop me from reaching victory."
It was a victory that seemed assured after the first Argentine goal, set up by a West German foul against Jose Luis Cuciuffo. With the resulting free kick, Barruchaga made a long crossing pass that Schumacher misjudged, allowing Jose Luis Brown to head it into the goal.
"This is the second World Cup I have played in, and I did nothing of what I expected," Schumacher said. "I'm to blame for Germany`s defeat."
He was guilty of indecisiveness on the goal that gave Argentina a 2-0 lead nine minutes into the second half. Maradona got the play started with a quick pass to Hector Enrique, who pushed it forward to Jorge Valdano.
Valdano had a breakaway when West German fullback Andreas Brehme mistakenly committed himself to Enrique. Schumacher was frozen as Valdano`s shot hit the lower left.
The goal aroused the West Germans and inspired a frenetic final 30 minutes that enlivened a previously desultory game. West Germany produced carbon-copy goals--each time, a Brehme corner kick was headed from the middle of the penalty area to the scorer--only eight minutes apart.
"We felt safe and, then, all of a sudden it was a tie and we became a bit panicky," said Brown, who played the final 40 minutes with a badly injured shoulder.
There was no need to worry. Diego Maradona, the alchemist, had more magic to work, and he knew the secret of turning baser medals to gold.
W. Germany Wins A Wretched Final
ROME — No sooner had the World Cup final ended Sunday than several of Argentina`s players swarmed angrily around referee Edgardo Codesal of Mexico. The Argentines felt they had been robbed by Codesal, who expelled two of their players and awarded a questionable penalty kick that let Andreas Brehme score the only goal of West Germany`s 1-0 victory.
The confrontation, brief as it was, became a disgraceful epilogue to an absymal championship match. It robbed both the game of soccer and 73,603 fans at Rome`s Olympic Stadium of a worthy conclusion to the month-long final stage of the tournament.
The last of the World Cup`s 52 matches was, however, a perversely fitting ending for a tournament in which brutality was up and scoring once again down. This 14th World Cup had all-time highs in yellow warning cards and red expulsion cards and an all-time low in scoring, just 2.25 goals per match.
Never before had fewer than two goals been scored in a World Cup championship match. Never before had even one player been ejected in the championship match.
It was hard to believe that only four years ago, the same two teams had played a scintillating finale, with Argentina winning 3-2.
That the clearly better team won this time seemed small consolation. West Germany defeated an Argentina battered by injury, the suspension of three starters and a key reserve punished for previous infractions and the two explusions in the second half. The Argentines were obviously hoping for a scoreless tie decided by a shootout. They almost succeeded, since the penalty kick came in the 84th minute.
Argentina rarely got the ball across midfield and was outshot 16-1. The lone shot was set up by a foul (what else?), and Diego Maradona looped the ensuing direct kick over the net.
It was one of the rare times the game`s most electric player even touched the ball, so well was he marked by Guido Buchwald and so unable were his teammates to get Maradona the ball.
"We played well, but it was too bad Argentina didn`t participate in the game," said West German coach Franz Beckenbauer. "They tried to destroy the game and play a non-game.
"Argentina was too weak to stand up to us. They played too much of a defensive game. It was too bad this happened in a championship game."
Beckenbauer`s team was a favorite from the beginning of the tournament. It was 6-0-1 in seven matches and the highest-scoring team (15 goals) in Italia `90, but it still went to the penalty-kick shootout to beat England after its semifinal match ended 1-1.
"To win this game 1-0 on a penalty shot falsifies the match," Beckenbauer said. "I don`t remember a single dangerous chance Argentina had in the game."
Yet the West Germans needed Codesal`s help to make Beckenbauer only the second person in history to win the World Cup as both a player (1974) and a coach. Mario Zagalo of Brazil (1958-62 as a player, 1970 as coach) is the other.
The defending champions were forced into a complete retreat when Codesal, a 39-year-old gynecologist, expelled Pedro Monzon for taking down Jurgen Klinsmann 19 minutes into the second half. Codesal obviously felt Monzon`s sliding tackle was directed only at Klinsmann`s legs and not at the ball. The West German forward contributed to the collision`s impact by trying to leap over Monzon.
Taking advantage of the extra man, the West Germans started running what looked like a basketball fast break. After a 4-on-1 rush was foiled by a sloppy pass, the Germans intercepted an Argentine clear and raced right back. That play finished when captain Lothar Mattheaus` pass sent forward Rudi Voeller into the Argentine penalty area. Argentine defender Roberto Sensini leaned slightly into Voeller, and then Sensini slid his feet into the ball. That Voeller fell seemed to have little to do with Sensini`s actions.
Codesal did not agree. He made a penalty-kick call that was as questionable for its circumstances as its correctness.
Awarding the kick so late in the match virtually meant it would decide the outcome. No referee in a Super Bowl or an NBA Championship would let such a game be determined by a 50-50 call.
"I don`t want to say anything about the referees. I never do," said Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo.
Argentine goalie Sergio Goycoechea had stopped the final two penalty kicks in the post-overtime shootouts that made his team winners in the quarterfinals and semifinals. This time, he guessed correctly on the direction of Brehme`s shot, but could not dive fast enough to stop it.
Three minutes later, Argentina`s Gustavo Dezotti was justifiably booted for clotheslining Juergen Kohler. That unpleasantness was sadly typical of an Argentine team that committed the most fouls and had the most yellow cards in the tournament. The Argentines scored only five goals in seven matches.
This was the third and almost certainly the last World Cup title for West Germany, also winner in 1954 and 1974. In the next World Cup, it will likely compete again as a unified Germany.
"We are number one in the world, and now we will also have players from East Germany," Beckenbauer noted. "In the future, the German team will be unbeatable. Sorry about that for the rest of the world."
Not as sorry as soccer should be about the present.